My grandmother once told me about all of the scheduled breaks she had while working as a typist. Having regular breaks was standard for her as a government employee, but I struggled to grasp the concept of being away from a desk as often as she reported. I’m accustomed to being chained to my desk, answering email after email, spooning soup with one hand while typing with the other. Healthy? No. Efficient? Possibly. Perhaps I should change my habits. On the other hand, I often dread the return to the office after going to lunch because I worry about the amount of work that has amassed during my absence. I often tell myself I’d rather crank out my work without breaks in order to leave earlier, but I realize this has the potential for burnout. Instead of feeling immense relief upon leaving the office, perhaps I should feel simple contentment and peace with the day. In other words, my days should be less of a roller coaster ride and more of a steady cruise along the highway.
A few weeks ago, I downloaded a meditation app to use in the evenings. It’s a valuable tool on the path toward new focus. I’m learning to live in the present moment, not to dwell on the past, and not worry too much about the future. In this regard, I’ve started using the app at work as well as at night. I’ve even recruited some HR team members to join me in an empty conference room several times a week. Stepping away from the desk really helps. Focusing on breathing makes a significant difference in the flow of the workday. My initial attempts at meditating were not easy, as my mind wandered frequently, but I learned that staying only in the present moment is a remarkably healthy approach to getting through the day. Fretting about the past does no good, for we cannot change what has already occurred. Worrying about the future is pointless because we have no control over what will happen; we can only shape the path to it.
Part of my re-focus involves learning to be at peace with what I accomplish each day, rather than fixating on failures. Instead of being frustrated with the amount of work I’m expected to complete, I take a few seconds to breathe deeply, close my eyes, and tackle one task at a time. Many of us know that “multi-tasking” is a myth and not something the brain is capable of doing; we end up spending more time to accomplish things because we often have to redo one or all of the things on our list. Performing one task at a time isn’t lazy or inefficient. It’s likely the most productive way to handle things.
Working steadily, rather than quickly, has become my new style. This stems from another change in perspective: as my years in corporate America accumulate, I’ve redefined my loyalty to companies. I’ve learned the hard way that companies care mostly about their bottom line and will squeeze anything they can out of their employees. Weekend hours I’ve spent with my laptop, late Friday nights meeting deadlines, and dozens of declined lunch invitations have yielded little in the way of my career development. I no longer feel the need to go beyond the scope of my role. (That could be an entirely separate blog entry, but I won’t bore you with my disgruntled rant.) Alas, I’ve succumbed to my cynical ways again. Where is my push notification from my mediation app? It’s time for a break.